Governor Nathan Deal signed SB 367 into law yesterday during a signing ceremony at the Capitol. It is the fifth such law the Governor has championed, noting that the Criminal Justice Reform process isn’t a “one and done” law but an ongoing process. The Governor said he didn’t expect this to be his last one, either.
Governor Deal noted that when he took office, Georgia had the nation’s 4th highest prison population in the country, with growth rates projecting the need for new prisons immediately. Earlier reform laws are showing results, with the number of prisoners having dropped instead of growing, with prison beds “now reserved for violent criminals”.
The newest bill is aimed at helping those who have served their time successfully re-enter society in an effort to cut down on recidivism.
The reforms under this law include the following:
- Restores the intent of the First Offender Act, updating the process for the 21st century to ensure that cases are properly closed upon completion of sentences
- Codifies Georgia’s accountability courts in order to grant them the authority they need to efficiently administer justice to those under their purview
- Restricts secure detention for all youth ages 13 and under, except for those charged with the most egregious of offenses where a clear public safety issue exists
- Adjusts public school disruption statutes so that students are appropriately handled through the disciplinary process rather than sent to a youth detention center or delinquent facility
- Removes the lifetime ban on food stamp eligibility after a felony drug conviction, subject to the successful completion of their sentence and probation
- Extends parole eligibility to non-violent recidivist drug offenders, allowing them the needed transition period for proper reentry upon completion of their sentences
- Furthers last year’s executive order “banning the box” for most state government jobs, now expanding to licensure applications
On the issue of allowing food stamps for those having a felony drug conviction, Governor Deal noted that there is no such restriction for violent felons, and thus this brings conformity to other classification of crimes after a sentence is served. Deal had additional remarks on the SNAP program and other reforms Georgia is piloting that will be included in a separate post.